Three people have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department alleging that officers subjected them to publicly invasive strip searches last year. The suit calls the behavior of the officers “extreme and outrageous, exceeding all bounds of human decency.”
The Chicago Sun Times summarized the complaint (emphasis mine):
All three claim they were searched by police May 23, 2013, after officers in an unmarked squad car drove at them the wrong way in the 9000 block of South Laflin Street, the suit says.
Police ordered them out of their vehicle and handcuffed Ford and Douglas, who had been driving, the suit claims. Officers opened both men’s waistbands and searched down their pants.
The suit alleges police then walked Douglas to a nearby house, handcuffed his wrist to bars on the home’s window, and pulled his pants to the ground while bending him over and searching his buttocks in the open air.
The plaintiffs claim police stopped when they saw neighbors looking, and then took all of them to an alley behind a church in the 9100 block of South Bishop Street, where they ordered Halley to remove her pants.
What happened next to Halley, the one female in the trio, is vomit-inducing:
Halley claims she “pleaded” with a female officer not to, but that the officers made her remove her tampon and submit to a body cavity search in the alley.
A female officer searched her, while a group of male officers watched and “made jokes and comments about Ms. Halley’s body,” the suit claims.
The three say they saw the female officer pull a small bag of heroin out of her sock, which she allegedly planted on Halley after the officer’s failed to find any drugs. Halley and Douglas were charged with dealing and possession, but charges were later dropped when Douglas passed away.
As grotesque as this story is, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Chicago police seem to have a penchant for sexually violating the people they’re supposed to be protecting. Just ask Angel Perez, who’s suing CPD for raping him with a gun in 2012 until he agreed to be a drug informant.
But these violations aren’t isolated to Chicago.
Yet again, police in New Mexico are being sued for forcing a person near the US-Mexico border to submit to an unlawful cavity search. In this particular case, the victim was a woman who refused to let police search her car without a warrant. She was detained in a room and told to strip naked in front of male officers who watched as she was subjected to a vaginal and annal search. She was charged with marijuana possession, but charges were later dropped because police could not produce any evidence. And this isn’t the first time. From the Associated Press:
Another lawsuit filed in November accuses the Hidalgo County sheriff’s office of illegally subjecting drug suspects to invasive body cavity searches. In that case, a man said he was strip-searched in a gas station parking lot, then taken to a hospital for an illegal cavity search.
A lawsuit in U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas, also is pending against federal agents over a similar search of a New Mexico woman crossing from Mexico through El Paso.
Kennedy said her law firm is getting a number of calls about similar cases along the New Mexico-Mexico border. She believes law enforcement agencies are under pressure to spend federal drug-fighting money but are overstepping their authority.
“They are detaining people for long periods of time while going on fishing expeditions,” Kennedy said. “They are subjecting people to unconstitutional searches, and for what?”
Adam Perlmutter, a New York attorney who has written about body cavity searches, said federal courts have ruled that body cavity searches are allowed in felony cases. In suspected misdemeanor cases, officers need a “reasonable, articulated basis” to perform a body cavity search.
“They can state a clear reason for believing that a search is needed, especially if they are look for contraband or narcotics,” he said.
Is there a word for a nation where police routinely force people to spread their legs? Because “police state” doesn’t seem like a strong enough phrase.